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Cantwell Hears From Spokane Residents About Struggles With Health Care Costs

Location: Spokane, WA

Cantwell Hears From Spokane Residents About Struggles With Health Care Costs

Cantwell Working for Quality, Affordable Health Care for Everyone

SPOKANE, WA - Sunday in Spokane, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell met with Spokane County residents to discuss the challenges they face with rising health care costs and getting the quality, affordable health care they need. Area residents Sandra Zierdt, Jeffrey Carrol, Lindsay Roberts, and Agnes Broncheau shared their stories with Cantwell and thanked her for the work she's done to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care and prescription drug coverage.

"In Spokane, and all over Washington, people have been forced to put their health and their lives at risk because health care costs are out of control," said Cantwell. "Every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care and prescription drug coverage, and I will never stop fighting to make sure they get it."

With health care and prescription drug prices soaring in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for many Washingtonians to get the care they need at prices they can afford. Health care expenses in Washington state rose 33 percent between 2000 and 2004, while spending on prescription drugs topped $3 billion in 2004. Even those with health insurance can't count on being covered for the increases—employee premiums went up more than 50 percent during the same four year period.

"I'm nineteen years old. I just graduated from high school and am enrolled to start college this fall. I'm the primary caregiver for my four-year-old son and for my mother, who is being treated for lymphoma," said Lindsay Roberts. "My mom's cancer went undiagnosed and untreated for nine months because she didn't have health insurance. My mother is just starting chemotherapy this month. I need to take my son to a crisis nursery so I can bring my mom to her medical appointments. My mom and I are going through this terrible struggle together. It's wrong that my mother's cancer didn't get diagnosed and treated for nine months because she couldn't afford to see a doctor. This should never happen to anyone else again."

"I don't have health insurance and neither does my oldest son," said Jeffrey Carrol. "My son is in college, and if anything happened to him, I don't know how we'd pay the medical bills. I wouldn't be able to help. I'm fifty-nine years old, and thankfully I'm healthy overall, but I've been having pain in my hips recently and I can't afford to get it looked at or treated. If you don't have health insurance, you can't get preventive care. We'd save money and lives if everyone got the health care they needed. As a country, our priorities need to be changed."

"I'm on multiple medications, and since I've fallen into the ‘donut hole,' I've been paying $500 more for them each month than I did before," said Sandra Zierdt. "At this rate, I'll use up the money I set aside for my retirement in the next year or two. I'm afraid I'll be forced to choose between the prescriptions I need and buying food and gas. I hope I never have to make those choices. Maria Cantwell is working to get us a better Medicare prescription drug plan - not as a political issue, but because it's the right thing to do."

Cantwell believes we can do better and has worked tirelessly in the Senate to put Washington first and make sure everyone has access to health care. Because prescription drugs are too expensive, Cantwell is working to deliver prescription drug coverage that works for seniors, not special interests. She supports reforming the Medicare prescription drug program to lower costs, improve coverage, and leave fewer seniors behind. To help keep costs down, Cantwell believes we should allow patients and their pharmacists to safely re-import drugs from Canada. Cantwell has worked to expand the National Health Service Corps to ensure that rural communities have more medical practitioners and better access to needed care.

Cantwell believes that we cannot ignore the 100,000 children in Washington state who don't have health insurance. Washington state has done better than other states at delivering coverage to children, Washington hasn't been able to use its full portion of money for the State Children's Health Insurance Program. When the state was going to be forced to further cut funding for children's health care in 2002, Cantwell got the federal government to give Washington its fair share so 150,000 low-income children kept their coverage.

Cantwell knows we have to do more to help our children get off to a good start in life, with regular check ups and preventative care so that problems like asthma and diabetes aren't left untreated and spiral into crippling conditions. That's why Cantwell is a cosponsor of the Kids Come First Act of 2005 to do just that. Covering kids means replacing very expensive critical care with less expensive preventive care, leading to immeasurable savings in our education system and our workforce.

As Cantwell travels across Washington, she has been hearing from Washingtonians about how high health care costs are hurting their families and their pocketbooks, and talking about her record and plans to make health care more affordable and more accessible for all Americans.

By the Numbers: Health Care Costs Skyrocketing in Washington State

Health Care Expenses Up 33 Percent: Healthcare expenses are up 33 percent in Washington state since 2000, to $32 billion in 2004. ["Health Expenditures by State," Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, US Dept of Health and Human Services]

Prescription Drug Spending Tops $3 Billion: Washingtonians spent $3.1 billion on prescription drugs in 2004, up 31.5 percent since 2000. ["Health Expenditures by State," Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, US Dept of Health and Human Services]

Health Insurance Premiums Up More Than 50 Percent: The average employee's premiums for family health insurance through their job has gone up 51 percent in four years, to an average of $2,892 in 2004 from $1,917 in 2000. [Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Insurance Component Tables, US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality]

Hospital Spending Up 48 Percent: Spending on hospital care is up 48 percent in Washington state since 2000, to $11.1 billion in 2004 from $7.5 billion.["Health Expenditures by State," Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, US Dept of Health and Human Services]

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